Tuesday, October 14, 2014

Theatre On Fire Presents "It Felt Empty . . ." by Lucy Kirkwood at the Charlestown Working Theater

The audience sits in the dark and the silence is interrupted by a violent struggle.  Something or someone has been struck.  The lights come up and we see a young woman holding in her hand a cudgel fashioned from a newspaper.  She is kneeling over the delicate body of a tiny bird.  This arresting image serves as a metaphor for the story that is about to unfold before us - the story of a young woman from Ukraine unwittingly lured into prostitution in London.  The fragile bird has inadvertently flown through a window to a place where she did not belong and where she is not safe.  And she is battered into oblivion.

Based on a true story of sex trafficking of a young woman from Eastern Europe, "It Felt Empty When The Heart Went At First But It Is Alright Now" by Lucy Kirkwood is a play that takes the audience on a jarring journey through the experiences of Dijana Pollančec.  The journey is both physical and metaphorical, for the play is set as a promenade.  The audience begins the evening in the main performance space  At the end of the long first scene, performed as a one woman piece by the remarkable Elizabeth Milanovich, the audience is escorted upstairs to a small space that appears to be the booking area of a police station.  Shortly thereafter, they are led into an area representing a jail cell in which two cots are set against a windowed wall.  A scene is enacted in this space with Dijana and her cell mate, Gloria, played convincingly by Obehi Janice.   At the conclusion of this scene, the audience is ushered back downstairs to the original performance space which has been re-configured to represent a London apartment. 

I do not want to reveal too much of the plot, but the theme of the play comes across loud and clear as Dijana tells her story in a fashion that is not strictly chronological.  This fragile bird - with a head for numbers - reveals the steps she takes and the calculations she makes in order to keep from being crushed by the lies she has been told and the cages into which she has been thrust.  The imagery of the bird reminded me strongly of the character of Joanna in "Sweeney Todd" singing plaintively about the green finches and linnet birds caged and blinded. 

The performances by Ms. Milanovich and Ms. Janice are of the highest order.  They are entirely believable in their roles and they invite the audience members to feel what they are feeling and think what they are thinking.  One would be hard pressed to find better acting anywhere in the Boston area.  Maureen Shea directs the action with a firm hand, helped enormously by the Sets and Costume design of Mirta Tocci, Lighting by Chris Bocchiaro and Sound by Darren Evans. 

In order to fulfill its mission of presenting socially relevant theater to the widest possible audience, Theatre on Fire offers all tickets for $10 or whatever you can pay.  The play will be presented the next three weekends - Friday and Saturday @ 8:00 PM through November 1 at the Charlestown Working Theater, 442 Bunker Hill Street. 

Theatre on Fire Website

I invite you to leave your cage, take wing to Charlestown and see this moving and important story as it unfolds the next three weekends.



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